Greetings and happy new year. I’m back with my monthly unbiased perspective on the business software environment.

This month’s theme: If you’re really upgrading your business software in 2014…

  1. Consider reading some of my more recent posts about best practices and tips for success with software upgrades – found on our website’s Insights pages (click here).
  2. Act now to get your business prepared. By May or June, you’ll be glad you did. Tips on what to do in the next 30 days are below.
  3. Good luck! This is a very challenging and often rewarding experience – but not without sincere commitment from everyone involved on your side and the implementation firm’s side.
  4. Consider the timing below as a guideline. Every business is different, each is prepared for this process in their own way, and the scope and extent of complexity of each company’s upgrade process varies dramatically.
  5. Remember – upgrades are an opportunity to IMPROVE the way your business operates. This – and other reasons “why” to upgrade, will be addressed in future posts (and in last November’s post, too).

What to do in the next 30 days

The following recommended steps assume a few things:

  1. You’ve already determined that “this is the year” you upgrade your environment of software, databases and Excel sheets into a more comprehensive ERP/accounting software environment.
  2. The business is committed to making this a success, and to spending the investment needed to do it correctly.

What to do – a short list:

  1. Plan to document your business software functional requirements, as well as the critical success factors that you can use to measure how well this upgrade will have gone, once you’re “done”. Determine who will do this most important process, and seek outside advice to help you determine how to best prepare a document. We do this for our clients, but in any event, be sure you give due care to preparing what really is your “story”.
  2. Determine who in top management is going to be the champion of this cause. It’s a lot of stress to do these upgrades – so, be sure that you’ve got strong leaders.
  3. Determine who will manage this process, internally. This person needs to have respect of those that will support the implementation process. In smaller and mid-size companies this person is often the CFO, or a savvy Controller – either way, be sure they have experienced this process before or it can be a serious detriment to success. In larger organizations, we recommend a Project Management Office to be established, with persons experienced in running these projects as the in-house leaders. We strongly recommend that your IT Director not be responsible for the project. This is a business process improvement project, and should be sponsored and often managed by business process owners.
  4. Establish a project charter… Meaning, answer the question: “why are we doing this upgrade, and what do we expect to be the benefits and results of doing so?” And, be sure to put down parameters about the project into this charter – such as “our solution needs to be hosted outside of our premises, and we can integrate well with current 3rd party technology tools, and we expect to be completed by date XYZ”.
  5. Establish the first version of your upgrade project plan. Consider the timeline ideas below.
  6. Consider the strength and experience of your project teamin the area of ERP upgrades, integrations, vendor management and project leadership. If you feel they can use guidance, or a co-leader, consider using outside advisors to augment your team in this process.

Recommended timeline (very high level)

  • January-February – see above short list
  • March-April – completion of requirements documentation, initial consideration of which solutions to pursue, introductory conversations with solution providers
  • May – demonstrations, product and service provider evaluation, initial selection of solution(s)
  • June – proposal review, finalization of contracts and statement of work
  • July – readiness and preparation efforts
  • August-December – implementation and data migration, go-live
  • January – “phew”

More unsolicited advice: complete the vendor solution selection as early as possible. You want to be starting you implementation with the best advisory team from the right software provider – not the one that is thrown together at the last minute to cram towards a year-end implementation.

Closing:

If you’re considering an upgrade to your ERP or business software, feel free to ping us with questions about the process, as well as to help you justify undertaking the challenge in the first place.

We’re here to help. Unbiased, independent, and experienced. We’ve got CFO, CPA, software and technology skills that are uniquely positioned to help our clients in this area. My contact information is below. And, click here to see our most recent and related postings.